Award honors Rice’s love, support of libraries

Johnnee Rice’s dedication and allegiance to East Carolina University libraries was publicly lauded when Rice was presented the lifetime membership award by the Friends of Joyner Library, a main support group of ECU’s main campus library.

Rice, who has lived in Kinston since graduating from ECU in 1975, was honored during the Friends of the Library spring banquet in late March. The Friends also held their annual meeting and celebration May 9, officially naming Rice as board of directors vice president for 2023-24.

Johnnee Rice with her lifetime membership award plaque. (Contributed photo)

“Creating a new generation of library fans, I just like being part of that,” Rice said.

Rice said her student experience at ECU was mainly focused at the music library. She majored in music therapy and music education.

Now, she has a broader perspective of the main campus library thanks to roles she has held with the Friends of the Library, including as events committee chair. She also has served on the Joyner Library advancement council.

“What I remember of Joyner is nothing like I see today,” she said. “We are growing and expanding and doing things I would have never dreamed. I’ve loved going to see the North Carolina Collection and upstairs wearing gloves when handling some really priceless pieces. That had not been part of my library experience as a student, because most of my experience was in the music library and not in Joyner.

“So many neat things are in the Teaching Resources Center. I wish I would have had that when I was teaching, and with the exhibits that are brought in, it’s easy to be really impressed by the library.”

Rice worked in music therapy before realizing her passion for education and teaching middle-school aged children when settling into an eventual long-term career at Woodington Middle School in Kinston. At Spilman Baptist Church in Kinston, she has served as organist, choir director and leader in handbell and children/youth choirs.

Her connection to Vivian Howard, a chef, author and owner of restaurant Chef & the Farmer, has provided one of Rice’s favorite memories as a member of the Friends of the Library.

“A big favorite is the spring banquet (in 2017) when we had Vivian as guest speaker,” Rice said. “She was a student of mine at Woodington Middle School and we’ve remained friends as she has branched out with her career. A cookbook is a book. That is when I mentioned to several other friends if we think Vivian could come speak, and I said she would draw a crowd. That was biggest banquet I could remember. … We’ve had a really good time planning those events.”

The Friends of Joyner Library group was established to foster the role of the library as a university and global resource. The Friends sponsor programs focused on raising awareness of the library’s resources and support fundraising activities to develop and preserve collection development and facility upgrades.

Rice was presented her award by fellow Friends of the Library board member Mike Taylor.

“Mike and Alice Taylor have been friends with Danny (husband) and me for a long time,” Rice said. “That made it extra special. He has done really well as a board member and excels in all areas of what we do. It was a special night. Just to be recognized by good friends means a lot.

“I plan to stay active in the life of East Carolina University as long as I am active. I love spending time there, between the library, ball games and concerts.”